A Found-ness Worth Celebrating (Luke 15:1-7, I Corinthians 1:4-9)
Lost and Found: Savoring So Great a Salvation
A Found-ness Worth Celebrating
Luke 15:1-7, I Corinthians 1:4-9
(One Lord: So Great a Salvation)
February 28th, 2016
I. And I Was That One
There's an old song that retells the very story we've been focused on this past month. As I read it, think about everything God has been teaching us in regard to what Hebrews 2:5 describes as “so great a salvation”. Here's that song...
Safe were the ninety and nine in the fold.
Safe though the night was stormy and cold;
But said the Shepherd when counting them o’er,
One sheep is missing, there should be one more.
Although His feet were weary and worn,
And though His hands were rent and torn,
Although the road was rocky and steep,
Still the good Shepherd searched long for his sheep.
There in the night He heard a faint cry
From the lost sheep just ready to die.
Then in His arms to shield from the cold
He brought the lost sheep back safe to the fold.
The Shepherd went out to search for the sheep,
And all through the night on the rocky steep
He searched till he found him,
With love bands He bound him,
And I was that one lost sheep.
This morning we will conclude our study of the parable of the lost sheep. Turn to Luke 15:1-7 if you haven't already. Of course, as most of you know, we've talked every week about this parable and its immediate context. But we've also used this parable as a starting point to explore what the rest of the Bible teaches us about the rescue Jesus is describing here.
II. The Passage: "Rejoice with Me" (Luke 15:1-7; I Corinthians 1:4-9)
Let's do that same thing one more time as we return to our starting point. Look with me at Luke 15, verse 1. This is what Luke tells us...
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him [i.e. Jesus].  And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  So he told them this parable:  “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
So we have already talked about a number of different aspects of this parable. But one verse we have not touched on is verse 6. Look at it again: And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ In our first lesson, we looked at what the Bible tells us about the disturbing, depressing, dismal and deadly reality of our lost-ness as lost sheep. But in this verse, we are presented with a found-ness worth celebrating. Do you see that?
Verse 7 explains the significance of this aspect of the parable. Even though the Pharisees and scribes from verse 2 considered 'sinners' a waste of their time, all heaven erupts with joy when one of these lost sheep is found. As verse 10 of this same chapter expresses it: “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)
And of course, when we consider the picture painted by our messages over the past few weeks, this response of joyful celebration it is not at all surprising.
Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd has rescued stubborn sheep who were utterly and hopelessly lost, unable to help themselves in any way. Moreover, the Good Shepherd's rescue began even before the creation of the world, when God the Father chose a select number of sheep for God the Son's flock. And as those sheep wandered into the deadly night of sin, through the canyons and over the cliffs of spiritual death, God has been and still is faithful to lay those sheep on His shoulders, that is, to draw those lost sheep to the Son and give them the gifts of repentance and faith.
But there's one more part to this picture, one more aspect of this stunning masterpiece. For centuries, Christians have argued with one another over a critical concern about this very rescue. They have asked a fair question: “Is it possible for a found sheep to once again become lost?” Or as some put it, “Can a Christian lose his or her salvation?” Well, this morning, I want us to see that God's word provides a clear and definitive answer to that question. Turn over to I Corinthians 1:4-9. In light of that questions, listen to how the Apostle Paul encourages the believers in Corinth...
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,  that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,  who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
I think we find very clearly in verses 8 and 9 an answer to our earlier question about found sheep becoming lost again. But let me do this. Let me give you three truths that flow out of or are related to this passage from I Corinthians. And under each of those truths we will also look at a number of other verses that will be helpful. So looking back at I Corinthians 1, I think we can say the first thing verses 8 and 9 reveal is this...
1. Every Sheep that Belongs to Jesus Will Stay with Jesus
Verse 8 puts it this way: [Jesus Christ] will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, if you know anything about what the rest of this letter reveals about the condition of this church, then this is an astonishing statement. This was a church plagued by divisions, by immorality, and by compromise. And as the one who wrote the letter, Paul knew all this. And yet, he still begins with this word of assurance.
How could Paul be so confident? He knew the words of the Good Shepherd himself:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.” (John 10:27-29)
Jesus expressed this same certainty a few chapters earlier in John's Gospel. Remember these verses?
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:38-40)
Again, the words of Jesus were one of the reasons Paul could speak with such confidence. Listen to that same confidence in his encouragement to the Philippian Christians...
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
But how is possible for struggling and straying people like us to stay with the Good Shepherd? Wasn't the hymn writer correct when he described himself as “prone to wander”? Well, Paul makes it clear in I Corinthians 1:9 that the key factor in all this is not our faithfulness, but God's. That's our second point...
2. We are Secure in the Son's Flock Because the Father is Faithful
Look again at I Corinthians 1:8, 9. The Son will sustain us to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Because... (v. 9) God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paul would go on in I Corinthians to address the faithlessness of the Corinthians in so many areas. But our gracious God is also a faithful God. Paul expressed this same assurance to the Thessalonians. Hopefully you recognize this is as one of our regular closing blessings...
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (I Thessalonians 5:23-24)
But what does God's faithfulness have to do with this question of eternal security in the flock of Jesus? Well, did you notice how in both I Corinthians 1 and I Thessalonians 5, the statement that “God is faithful” is connected to the fact that God “calls”?
Why is that important? Because it takes us right back to the fact that our rescue, our salvation, our redemption is SO big that it stretches all the way back before the creation of the universes AND all the way forward into eternity. Another verse we've looked at in previous week, Romans 8:30, describes this stunning reality. Paul writes...
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:30)
Can you grasp the extent, the scope Paul is describing here? If God chose us, and predetermined our destiny, then he would certainly be faithful to call us to Christ and justify us in Christ. And sitting here this morning, singing His praises and hungering for His word, we are proof of God's faithfulness to His plan. But this is not the extent of our destiny, is it? Paul states we will also be “glorified” one day. Our resurrection body will be “raised in glory”, Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:43.
But in Romans 8:30, Paul expresses this future reality in the past tense...”those whom he justified he also glorified”. Do you see what he's saying? It has been ordained. It's God's plan. It is our testimony. It is as good as done. Why? Because God is faithful. He won't change his mind. Our predestined destiny is secure.
But if that's true, what about passages that talk about “falling away” from the faith, or what about those we know who have apparently fallen away from their faith? Well, that bring us to our final point.
3. Not Every So-Called Sheep is His Sheep
Listen to how Jesus warns his disciples about the reality of Kingdom ministry. He declared...
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Paul understood this. He knew that not everyone who professed faith was of the faith, even those who, in some way, practiced the faith. He told Timothy about these false sheep [have] the appearance of godliness, but [deny] its power. (II Timothy 3:2-5) He warned Titus in the same way when he wrote about these pretenders: They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. (Titus 1:16)
You see, in another parable, Jesus taught that not every seemingly positive response to the gospel is a persevering response: As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy,  yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. (Matthew 13:20-21)
In all such cases, this kind of “falling away” from the faith is simply the confirmation that true faith was never really present. The John expresses that same point in this way in I Jn 2:18-19:
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
But remember, the destiny God has determined for us and made possible through Christ's sacrifice and victory, that destiny does not come about by His people switching on some spiritual 'cruise control' and just taking in the view. No! God uses exhortations to persevere to bring about real perseverance. And when we heed those calls to stand firm, to not give up, to not give in, we discover the power God has given us to stand firm.
III. Rest Assured
So think about what God has shown us. When the Good Shepherd brings us home, he brings us all the way home. When the Good Shepherd brings us home, we are home to stay. That is a found-ness worth celebrating! And all heaven celebrates you! Your rescue!
You see, a salvation in which God cannot save me from me on my worst day is not a found-ness worth celebrating. If it were possible for me to go astray again, even after being found, then I would have gone astray a long time ago. But even on my worst day, when I am distracted by the things of this world, when I am fixated on petty grievances, when I am bowing before the gods of pleasure, power, or prestige, when I am faithless...He is still faithful.
And because He is faithful, you can rest assured that even your worst day or days cannot alter the trajectory He has set for your life. And when the Holy Spirit works to both convict us about our wandering and comfort us about our Shepherd's care, God causes even our worst days to work together for our good.
Be encouraged, Christian. Be encouraged that when God calls you to run the race, he will give you the legs to run as you step on that track. Be encouraged that when God calls you to fight the good fight, He will give you a warrior's heart as you run to the battle. Be encouraged that when God calls you to overcome, He will give you the victory as you press on. Though we can and will go through our share of ups and downs, God's flock will persevere.
That is what God has designed. That is what God has decreed. And God IS faithful. He will surely do it.
And if you aren't sure you are a part of Jesus' flock, then you can also be encouraged. God is welcoming you this morning with open arms. Nothing in this world, and no one else in this world can give you this kind of assurance; assurance for this life and the life to come. Trust in Jesus today. Trust that He alone did what you desperately needed.
And may God grant all of us the eyes to see the bigness of the rescue He has accomplished through Jesus. And as we do, may we daily savor “so great a salvation”.
other sermons in this series